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Great Ape Trust graduate student's paper sheds light on bonobo language
Date:8/28/2008

earch Center when the video was made about 15 years old. Since 2000, students working in the bonobo laboratory have systematically reviewed archived video to track the development of competencies such as language in each of the bonobos for comparison with their current competencies.

"This is a long-term project, starting from the beginning of where we have data," Fields said. "All of this is contextualized with our current research and larger programs, such as forgiveness research. The students are looking at the earlier data, while investigators are looking at new data."

He expects Pedersen's paper to be the first in a series of many. "This paper serves as an investigation into the early ontogeny of these kinds of competencies," he said. "These papers will eventually be assembled in a larger volume to look at issues in the development of forgiveness and other cultural dimensions of the apes' lives."

In the video that is the subject of Pedersen's publication, Panbanisha was in the forest with Savage-Rumbaugh and an assistant, who had a dog in tow that Panbanisha didn't like.

Though Panbanisha and Savage-Rumbaugh moved from topic to topic in the conversation, Panbanisha repeatedly used the lexigrams to express her desire to be carried by the assistant, who was tending to the dog. Savage-Rumbaugh offered other resolutions, but Panbanisha remained firm. Ultimately, the ape prevailed and was carried from the forest by the assistant.

After applying conversational analysis tools, Pedersen asserted that language is more than the simple act of transferring information, but a conversational interaction between active participants. Language-competent bonobos use lexigrams, which are made up of arbitrary symbols that represent words, as the basis for conversations with humans.

Pedersen said linguistic aspects of the conversation included turn taking, negotiation, pauses and repetition, and went far beyond information shari
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Contact: Al Setka
asetka@greatapetrust.org
515-243-3580
Great Ape Trust of Iowa
Source:Eurekalert

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